Montana ‘No Pay, No Play’ Bill Vetoed by Governor

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has vetoed legislation intended to limit the recovery rights of uninsured and drunk drivers who are involved in serious traffic accidents.

The bill would have established a “no pay, no play” statute in the state’s insurance law saying that motorists who are driving drunk or without proper car insurance coverage at the time of an accident caused by another driver should not be able to recover money for non-economic damages from the at-fault party.

Governor Brian Schweitzer

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer

The rationale for this type of restriction is that individuals who drive impaired or uninsured are acting irresponsibly by doing so and should not have access to full recovery rights. Opponents countered this claim by saying that uninsured drivers get behind the wheel not because they are making a decision to, but because they are forced to by economic circumstances.

Supporters of the legislation also said that such restrictions would lead to more affordable auto insurance rates for all, since the average loss to the insurers would shrink, which could lessen the need to raise premiums to make up for losses.

But Gov. Schweitzer said in his veto message that there was not a “rational relationship between the ‘punishment’ under the bill and the status of the individuals upon whom the punishment would be imposed.”

The governor also noted in his message the fact that the insurance industry opposed one of the bill’s amendments. The amendment required insurers to report to a government committee within the next year and a half on whether the bill had any noticeable effects on premiums.

During the debate, industry representatives said it would be difficult to quantify the extent to which the bill affected the price of coverage, given the fact that so many factors can influence premium sizes.

“It’s going to to be real difficult to discern the effect of the passage of this legislation on rates,” said Greg Van Horssen, speaking on behalf of State Farm at a Transportation Committee hearing.

Montana SignGov. Schweitzer wrote that this amounted to the insurance industry’s disclaiming the purpose of the bill itself.

The legislature could potentially override the governor’s veto, but the prospects of that happening are slim.

In order to do so, 66 percent of the state legislators would need to vote for the override. The bill itself, though, received favorable votes from only 59 percent of House members who voted on the measure and only 52 percent of the Senate.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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